Henry Styles Bridges (September 9, 1898 – November 26, 1961) was an American teacher, editor, and Republican Party politician from Concord, New Hampshire. He served one term as the 63rd Governor of New Hampshire before a twenty-four-year career in the United States Senate.
Early life and career
Bridges was born in West Pembroke, Maine, the son of Alina Roxanna (Fisher) and Earle Leopold Bridges. He attended the public schools in Maine. Bridges attended the University of Maine at Orono until 1918. From 1918 he held a variety of jobs, including teaching, newspaper editing, business and state government. He was an instructor at , Ashfield, Massachusetts from 1918 to 1919. He was a member of the extension staff of the University of New Hampshire at Durham from 1921 until 1922. He was the secretary of the New Hampshire Farm Bureau Federation from 1922 until 1923, and the editor of the Granite Monthly Magazine from 1924 until 1926. Meanwhile, He was the director and secretary of the New Hampshire Investment Corporation from 1924 until 1929. He was then a member of the New Hampshire Public Service Commission from 1930 until 1934.
Bridges ran for governor of New Hampshire in 1934, and won, becoming the nation’s youngest governor at the time, according to John Gunther‘s book, Inside U.S.A. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1936, and would serve until his death in 1961. In 1937 he retired from the Army Reserve Corps, in which he had served as a lieutenant since 1925. In 1940 he attempted to win the Republican nomination for President; the nomination was eventually won by Wendell Willkie. That same year, Bridges also received two delegates for the Republican vice presidential nomination, which eventually went to Charles L. McNary. Bridges broke his hip on New Year’s Eve 1941, and missed several months of the next Senate session.
Bridges was reelected to four subsequent terms in 1942, 1948, 1954, and 1960, but he did not complete his final term due to his death. He became the highest-ranking Republican senator, serving as chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Economic Cooperation when the Republicans had control of the Senate from 1947 until 1949, Senate Minority Leader from 1952 until 1953, President pro tempore of the United States Senate when the Republicans had control of it from 1953 until 1955, chairman of the Joint Committee on Inaugural Arrangements for both of the inaugurations of President Dwight Eisenhower, Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations when the Republicans had control of the Senate from 1947–1949 and 1953–1955, and Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee from 1954 until his death.
In the Senate, John Gunther wrote, Bridges was “an aggressive reactionary on most issues…and he is pertinaciously engaged in a continual running fight with the CIO, the Roosevelt family and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.”
Association with Joseph McCarthy
Bridges was a staunch defender of Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, and was one of only 22 senators, all Republicans, who voted against the censure of McCarthy for his “red scare” communist witch hunts, and for his so-called “lavender scare” tactics aimed at homosexuals in 1954. After WWII, when the U.S. government was expediting the immigration of Nazi scientists and Jewish members of the U.S. State Department were questioning the rush, Bridges was quoted as saying the Department needed a “first-class cyanide fumigating job.” [a]
Bridges was also a key collaborator, with fellow Republican Senators McCarthy and Herman Welker of Idaho in the blackmail of Democratic Wyoming Senator Lester C. Hunt, harassment that led to Senator Hunt’s suicide in his Capitol office on June 19, 1954. Bridges threatened that if he did not immediately retire from the Senate and agree not to seek reelection, Bridges would see that Hunt’s son, Lester Hunt, Jr., who had been arrested for soliciting an undercover policeman, was prosecuted and that his son’s homosexuality would be widely publicized. Bridges also threatened Inspector Roy Blick of the Morals Division of the Washington Police Department with the loss of his job for failing to prosecute Hunt Jr. A Republican, Edward D. Crippa, was appointed by the Republican acting governor of Wyoming, Clifford Joy Rogers, to fill the vacant seat.
Alex Ross in The New Yorker wrote in 2012 of an event “loosely dramatized in the novel and film Advise & Consent [in which] Senator Lester Hunt, of Wyoming, killed himself after … Bridges … threatened to expose Hunt’s son as a homosexual”.
Death and burial
He was one of the poorest men ever elected governor and still of modest means when elected to the Senate, yet his widow Doloris told then Vice President Lyndon Johnson that her husband had left her “a million dollars in cash”. Bridges willed his East Concord home to the state to serve as a residence for New Hampshire’s governors. The New Hampshire Governor’s Mansion is known as “Bridges House”.
The “Styles Bridges Room” in the U.S. Capitol was named in his memory on March 12, 1981. Interstate 93 in New Hampshire, from Concord north to the Vermont state line, is named the Styles Bridges Highway. In December 2012, the Boston Globe called for the state to examine Bridges’s role in Senator Lester Hunt‘s death and reconsider whether the state should continue to honor Bridges, or rename the highway.
- John Gunther, Inside U.S.A., p. 471
- U.S. Senate, roll call vote on Senate Resolution 301, December 2, 1954 – Congressional Record.
- Ross, Alex (April 30, 2018). “How American Racism Influenced Hitler”. The New Yorker. Retrieved May 1, 2018.
- Senator Bridges on July 18, 1950, 81st Congress, 1st session, Congressional Record 96, part 8:10490-10492.
- James J. Kiepper, Styles Bridges: Yankee Senator (Phoenix Publishing, 2001) ISBN 0-914659-93-6, 145-7
- Michael Isikoff (June 21, 2015). “Uniquely Nasty: The blockbuster novel that haunted gay Washington”. Yahoo. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- Pearson, Drew (June 22, 1954). “The Washington Merry-Go-Round” (PDF). Detroit Free Press. Detroit, Michigan. p. 16. Archived from the original on February 17, 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
- Pearson, Drew (February 21, 1974). Abell, Tyler (ed.). Diaries, 1949-1959. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. p. 325. ISBN 0030014263. OCLC 707040.
- “Congressional Quiz”. The Free Lance–Star. 70 (176). Fredericksburg, Virginia. Congressional Quarterly. July 28, 1954. Retrieved May 3, 2018.
- Ross, Alex, “Love on the March”, The New Yorker, November 12, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
- “Styles Bridges, Dean of Senate Republicans, Dies At Age 63”. Lodi News-Sentinel. November 27, 1961.
- Kiepper, Yankee Senator, 231-3
- Kiepper, Yankee Senator, 189
- Kiepper, Yankee Senator, 240
- Kiepper, Yankee Senator, 242-3
- “N.H. should reassess legacy of Senator Styles Bridges”. Boston Globe. December 29, 2012. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- quote: Mr. President, the matter of the German scientists was very important. The Senator from Michigan [Mr. FERGUSON], the Senator from Nebraska Mr. WHERRY, and many other Senators who were interested in that situation at the time it was being considered, remember what took place. We sat in commmittee [sic?] and heard a man testify that this individual said he did not care what the program of the President of the United States or of the Cabinet was, that he was going to block the coming into the United States of German scientists. As the result of this attitude on the part of some of our civilians, against the advice of the President and the military authorities, the entry into the United States of a sufficient number of scientists was blocked, and Russia obtained the bulk of them. We obtained only a few.⁋ Let us face the cold, grim, bloody facts. America is in a shooting war. The cold war is over. This may be the opening skirmish of World War III. Americans can honestly face these facts. Americans can be realistic.⁋ Or we can continue to hide our heads in the sand, utter pious hopes for the success of the United Nations under Trygve Lie, who has played the Communist tune, and continue to soften our people with more handouts.⁋ […] On March 24, 1948, I spoke on the floor of the Senate. I offered a 17-point program to stop Communist aggression. Most of those points are as valid today as they were over 2 years ago.⁋ Today I offer an expanded program based on my original suggestions. I sincerely urge the President of the United States to adopt it as a program for saving the America we know.⁋ […] Eleventh. Clean out the State Department. This is highly important. The small chance we have to postpone the full-scale encounter with Russia, until we are ready, depends on the skill of our diplomats. For many years our State Department has been infiltrated with men who either have unbelievably poor judgment or whose loyalty is open to serious question. It is not simply a matter of sweeping the front stoop by firing the top officials. It is a matter of a complete housecleaning. President Truman owes it to himself and his country to have the best possible advice on all levels.⁋ The need for the housecleaning can no longer be ignored. In 1939 Stalin ruled 180,000,000 people. Today he rules 800,000,000 people. Our foreign policy of appeasement has resulted in stark disaster. The architects of failure must be swept out of office.⁋ When an Army officer loses a battalion, he is relieved of command, in disgrace. When a naval officer loses his ship or runs it aground in the mud, he is courtmartialed. But when foreign-policy advisers lose a whole continent, they are applauded or even promoted.⁋ Mr. President, I have felt all along that there must be security risks in the State Department. I do not know the extent of these risks or of their disloyalty. Apparently, the Senate is not going to learn much about it as a result of any investigation by this Congress. But obviously, the great bulk of employees in the State Department are loyal Americans. These persons do not pose any security problem.⁋ But I do not like the way the State Department, collectively, thinks. American thinking has never been defensive. American thinking has always been aggressive. Traditionally, our country never has sought merely to keep aggressors quietly appeased. Traditionally, our policy has been to do something about it.⁋ We do not exercise world leadership by “waiting for the dust to settle.” I believe it is essentially un-American to “wait for the situation to clarify.” These phrases mean nothing, except that we do not know what we are doing or what we are trying to do. That is not the way Americans think. Americans are imaginative, forward looking. Americans have ideas. Americans get things done. America should embark on a diplomatic offensive to cut the ground out from under Communist diplomacy.⁋ The State Department needs a real house cleanihg. This is not a job of sweeping the dust under the rug with a whisk broom, or airing out the house by opening the front door and sweeping the front steps. This job calls for yellow soap, a scrubbing brush, and plenty of elbow grease, from the basement to the attic. It should be finished off with a first-class cyanide fumigating job.⁋ We can do this for our fighting men in Korea without spending a cent. It could be accomplished long before effective reinforcements get to Korea. It would give our military morale a terrific boost. Let us clean house, Mr. President.
- McDaniel, Rodger. Dying for Joe McCarthy’s Sins: The Suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt (WordsWorth, 2013), ISBN 978-0983027591
- Biographic Sketch at U.S. Congress website
- Styles at New Hampshire’s Division of Historic Resources
- A film clip “Longines Chronoscope with Sen. Styles Bridges (September 12, 1952)” is available at the Internet Archive
- A film clip “Longines Chronoscope with Sen. Styles Bridges (April 14, 1952)” is available at the Internet Archive
- “N.H. should reassess legacy of Senator Styles Bridges,” Boston Globe, December 29, 2012